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 Building Kayleigh - Part One

By Terry Lesh - Portland, Oregon - USA

Part I: Hull Construction
Part II: Outfitting

Kayleigh : 18' Sharpie Camp Cruiser - Part I: Hull Construction

Where this is all headed-the finished boat on one of her maiden voyages at the 2009 Fern Ridge Wooden Boat ShOow near Eugene regon. Author/builder at the helm (Photo by John Kohnen).

The Kayleigh design has a generous cabin for an 18' boat, and very clean lines. Specifications are: 18' LOA, 6' 6" beam and estimated weight is around 600lbs. The displacement hull incorporates a lot of rocker and tucked transom with a hull speed of around 6 mph with 6hp outboard engine. Designer is Tracy O'Brien http://www.tracyobrien.com

Pretty well into my 70's with an increasingly bad back, I knew I had to give up sailing. We loved our 18 ' 1972 Baymaster dory like sloop. But Patricia and I just were no longer nimble or quick enough to be safe sailors anymore. So we decided to sell "Cayuga" and find a suitable power boat. I knew this was coming and been searching for something for the last couple of years.

1972 18' Baymaster Dory Like Sloop at Sucia Island in the Puget Sound. Note the similarity of appearance 1between this sloop and the Kayleigh displacement power boat. (Photo by Author)

But they just don't make small, traditional type displacement power boats anymore. I thought about doing a sailing/trawler conversion from some dry-docked sailboat, but I couldn't find one that appealed to me. I finally accepted the fact I would have to build what I wanted. I like traditional designs, needed a good rough water sea-worthy boat for unpredictable NW rivers and sounds; comfortable cruising accommodations, economical to build and operate. I finally narrowed it down to four designs: the Poor Richard, The Redwing, a 1950's Jackson design called the "Dolphin," and Tracy O'Brien's Kayleigh. I finally chose Kayleigh because it met all my requirements and for its size had the largest cabin space.

The Kayleigh is a sharpie based design with a lot of flare, sheer and rocker, with a well tucked transom and bottom tumblehome at the transom ends to avoid her dragging a transom wave, much like a catboat. In addition the outboard motor is located on a motor board inside a false transom for protection from steep following seas/troughs if one gets caught in a mess. Such a hull design, while 18' LOA, is only about 15' or so on the LWL. So hull speed is predicted at about 6 miles an hour. This displacement hull arrangement only requires 2 hp for adequate speed, and 6 hp tops. Very economical. Tracy's prototype testing was done with a 2hp British Seagull. The overall construction is a combination of stitch and glue epoxy composite with longitudinal strip planking serving as the fore & aft sheer deck beams. A very strong, yet light weight construction technique.

I ordered the plans from Tracy (~$50) and started studying them. In my eye the initial design left a few things to be desired: The cabin, while very generous for an 18' boat was too boxy.

Original design is OK, but I felt the cabin looked too boxy and foreshortened.
Author's design modifications

So I added a brow on fwd cabin top; Bolger "anti slap pad under forefoot; twin 2" x 6" skegs fwd and parallel to motor well; cockpit combings; cockpit & cabin top hand rails; note also the raised motor board. I raised it from 15" to 18" for further safety from following wash or splash. A long shaft motor will be used.

The plans called for using marine plywood (fir or mahogany type) with complete epoxy saturation. I could not find decent fir marine plywood in Oregon. I was not about to pay $100 a sheet for British Standard Approved Marine Hardwood plywood, then spend something like $800 on epoxy to encapsulate it. After a quite complete nationwide plywood research, I finally decided on Olympic Panel's Crezon MDO Two Step. This tight lain fir plywood with no voids or overlaps, sanded both sides and bonded with a phenolic resin paper compound on both sides. It is used for highway and outdoor advertising signboards. I talked to Tracy about it, but he feared it would not machine well for skarfing, etc.

It turned out to machine just fine and took epoxy resin (as in the the filleted and glassed stitched seams) very well. I bought 3/8" material for all structures except the bottom, which is 1/2". The cost was ~ $48 a 4' x 8' sheet. As I recall my total plywood bill was less than $400. The surfaces of this plywood are very fair and smooth. All that is needed for finishing is a good paint job. Using this material I figure I saved the $800 in resin cost and some 300lbs of weight.

For the sheer decks, forward decks, cabin and cockpit hatch and door framing, I found some rough sawn 4"x 6" x 15' (full quarter) timbers from Chuck Gottfried, a fellow Coot, from which I milled all the required parts using a circular saw, band saw and small planer. The cost of this African Mahogany timber was ~ $200.

Tracy's plans are very good, they give all the dimensions needed for the major parts such as the bottom, sides, bunks, cockpit seats and cabin panels. You have to make up your own plans/dimensions for the type of doors and cabin hatch arrangement. From the pictures, you can see how I arranged my portholes, doors, bunks and cockpit storage areas and seats.

Decisions about helm management determine the door and cockpit seat arrangement that work best. After some 60 years of amateur boat building of all types, boating of all kinds, in all kinds of waters
(lakes, rivers, bays, sounds ocean bars and wide open ocean), I always go for the simplest arrangement for any system on a boat. The more stuff you have the more you're asking for trouble. And no matter what system you have it will fail, and always just at the most critical time. Therefore I opted for no holes anywhere in the hull and as few fastenings, pulleys, wires, bolts, eyes, fairleads, cables, hinges, knobs, electrics, tubes, hoses, blocks, drawers, or other moving parts as possible.

The stitch and glue method (S&G), done right and carefully results in a very strong monocoque shell (like an egg) where every part shares hull stress with every other part with no gaps, frames, screws or bolts anywhere in the hull to break, pull out, leak or promote rot.. Putting a hole in anywhere in the hull of a structure such as this just seems uncalled for. This is not to say that I didn't use some screws and boat nails in the cabin structures.

For steering I liked the idea that Tracy shows in the pictures of his prototype, using a long tiller on the outboard. Using a telescoping tiller extension with a lockable universal type swivel joint seemed like a good way to control steering and engine speed. By fastening it to the outboard tiller/throttle you can work both remotely. Later I will show the shift gear lever extension I made. With these decisions made I could have the largest area possible for cockpit seats and stowage, pretty much as the plans show. The next decision was how to arrange the cockpit doors (all of these decisions need to be made pretty much before beginning so you always know where your are going and how you want to wind up. I decided to have doors that would swing open over the cockpit seats, flush against the aft cabin bulkhead on the cockpit side, so I could mount my navigation systems in line of sight, and have them secure when the doors where closed and locked.

Satisfied I knew generally what I wanted to do, I put up a 12' x 24" portable shelter with sides in my driveway just outside of my shop, leaving one end open to the shop for easy access to my tools. I made a 4' wide by 24' building table in the tradition of building sharpies, very stout to hold various forces including my 240lb weight. The sharpies are build right side up while sitting on their bottom on such a table. The table is made convenient to a working height considering one must be able to reach inside, roll the hull from side to side, get in & out, etc. This table method is an especially easy building using the S&G method. I bought a $30 Harbor Freight (HF) electric hand planer, made a scarfing jig for it and scarfed all the bottom and side panels together.

First, I laid out the bottom on the scarfed 24' long panel, cut it out and then laid out the sides. Here is where I found a small error in the plans and proves the use of fairing battens for getting the proper cut lines. One of the sheer line measurements fell quite out from the batten line. I checked and rechecked, then just used the batten line. When boat building, I take the plans and measurements as base suggestions and ultimately follow the rule "if it looks good to the eye, its right." I always stand back from various spots and eyeball everything.

Transom, sides and sheer knees S&G'd in place. The knees hold the cross braces in place during construction assuring correct hull shape and then serve as supports for installing the sheer decks P & S and
the fwd deck. (Author)

The sheer decks and fwd deck are 7/8' square longitudinal strips scarfed in place using a portable miter box & JAP saw. Forty-five degree miters are staggered. This a major job and the hardest part of building the boat. The strips rest on the knees and the decks are supposed to be flat. But my milling was not 100% square so I allowed the strips to take their own form and wound up with crowned decks, which actually added to the appearance and water runoff characteristics of the structures. An example of the Zen of boat building," let it be what it is!"

I first started used a slightly thickened epoxy for gluing and galvanized nails for fastening the strips as Tracy said to do. This quickly turned into a huge mess, and even though I pre-drilled, I had bent nails all over the place. I got very discouraged and had several G&Ts that night. I tried other glues-still a mess. Finally, I found some ceramic coated deck screws and used Gorilla Glue. It stayed in place while I screwed around with fitting and fastenings. When the sheer decks are in, the hull is structurally basically complete. At this point it could be finished as an open skiff. This type of design makes for a very rigid and strong hull. You basically have a composite eggshell with 8" x 1" I beams longitudinally P&S.

This type of design makes for a very rigid and strong hull. (Author)

Once the sheer decks and forward deck (same method) I went back to HF and bought a $30 8" disk sander and packs of assorted grits, starting with 60 grit. This is a big sanding job, getting everything fair and nicely shaped. The final sanding was done with lighter grits using random orbital sanders. I went through a total of three (one large disk sander and two RO's building this boat). Sanding is one of the things I hate about S&G construction.

Sheer decks done, motor motor board and aft hatches installed. Author)

The motor board is fwd of the hatches and is raised to 18' from the plan's 15". In gives more freeboard to the motor mount and also provides the lip just fwd of the hatches. This keep drainage from any motor well splash back into the well instead of into the cockpit. The cross braces with the "feet" on them are in preparation to turning the the hull for bottom work. The hull will rest on the little 2" x 4" feet.

Lots of sanding. (Author)
Sheer decks and fwd deck finished. Hull structure is complete at this point (except for bottom work), and could be fitted out as an open skiff or launch. (Author)

At this point I gathered a bunch of Coots http://www.coots.org) together to turn over the hull in preparation for final finishing of the bottom. This only cost some pizza and French Vanilla Ice Cream. The actual procedure prior to this time was:

1. Stitch and glue the hull
2. Install knees
3. Install turning braces and feet
4. Turn the hull
5. Finish the bottom
6. Turn the hull
7. Build the sheer decks, fwd deck and topside structures.

Once the hull was turned, the chines, transom, and bow all had to be beveled and taped. Then the was bottom glassed. I chose to use Xynol rather than fiberglass for covering the bottom as recommended by Reuel Parker (The Sharpie Book). Besides being much more resistant to abrasion and taking in about 1½ times more resin (good for strong bottom), than fiberglass, it drapes very easily around corners, cuts easily with sharp scissors and does not leave the "fiberglass itch" when sanding after saturation. Its about the same price as fiberglass, maybe slightly more. As per Tracy's instructions I mixed graphite into the coating resin, along with fumed silica to get a slippery but very hard surface on the bottom.

There was quite a lot of work to do here, as the bottom is a very important part of the boat. It must be very strong and resistant to rocks, logs, beach sand and other abuse. Its characteristics determine how the boat handles underway, in beaching and at anchor. I kept all of these functions in mind as I went to work on the bottom.

After the bottom was sealed with zynole and epoxy the skegs were made.

A level line from the bow pad was established and the skeg patterns were made so that the bottom of the skegs are on the same plane as the bow pad (anti-slap pad) which will be about 2" deep from the foot of the stem. (Author)
Pattern cut station heights are marked at set intervals along the bottom of the hull. (Author)

Skeg patterns are made from ¾" scrap plywood. A scribe line is made by measuring distance/height stations along a longitudinal line about 5' long the hull fwd of the motor well. The skegs are made from
2' x 6" pressure treated planks, set in epoxy mush (epoxy resin + wood flour + fumed silica) and temporarily fastened with long drywall screws from inside the bottom. The skegs will be filleted with
1" epoxy mush fillets, taped with 10 ounce x 6" bias tape, and faired with mush again. The bottom will not receive its final epoxy/carbon fiber until all these structures are complete.. Its a twin skeg arrangement attached fwd of the motor well and on both sides. I chose this method to assure adequate steerage in the wind and to provide a stable platform for drying out on mud flats and to avoid turbulence in the propeller area (as opposed to a single skeg along the center of the keel line).

Skeg patterns are made from ¾ “ scrap plywood. (Author)

Once the skegs were made and attached, I made a "Bolger Anti-Slap Pad." This idea is sort of like a mini "bow pod" which smooths out ripple "slap" on the hull while moored or at anchor. I added a small fin like shape to the very bottom of the anti slap pad to act as a cut-water when going upwind under power.

Profile of the anti-slap pad. It is made from multiple layers of 1/2" MDO and faired with Marine Formula 27. Lots of grinding and sanding here too! Note mini peak at center of mound. This is to help break wave slapping both at rest and underway. (Author)

This shows scale of size of the pad. Its about 30" long overall and runs from chine to chine and on a continuous arc from the point of the forefoot. When constructing the hull, I put about 3 or 4" of mush inside the bow, made a 2" x 4" Port Orford stem that ran from the breast hook area down to the foot of the bow and embedded it into the mush. With such a reinforced bow, and then another 2" or so of resin laminated MDO running 30" aft of the forefoot in the form of the anti-slap pad, I feel I have a very strong bow area in case of hitting any deadheads etc.

This shows scale of size of the pad. A level reference showing thickness and height of anti-slap pad. (Author)

I strung a level line from the foot of the bow to the end of the aft most part of the skegs in order to develop a single level plane of reference for the bottom of the skegs and the highest (deepest) point of the anti slap-pad. This is to assure even footing for grounding in mud flats. It also serves to protect the engine lower unit, since given the rocker of the hull and the depth of the skegs the propeller does not extend below that plane.

A level reference showing thickness and height of anti-slap pad. (Author)
Some views of the ant-slap pad from different angles with the hull in a water line attitude. Did the antislap pad work? You'll have to wait to Part IV: Performance. (Author)

Once all the basic hull structures were finished, it was time to lay out the cabin for sleeping, stowage and galley areas. This takes a lot of thinking about how one wants to do things; whether most cruising will be done solo or with a mate, balancing easy access stowage with floatation, porta potti usage and cooking in inclement weather.

The first thing was to find a level reference line around the perimeter of the cabin. The plans give instructions for finding the waterline level attitude of the hull, so one can be assured that the bunks and other structures will be level when the boat is actually in the water. Getting the hull waterline level is easy, but getting the level reference line around the inside perimeter is not so easy since there is no place to measure from. I used a combination of techniques; levels, laser levels and a technique similar to finding the boot line on the outside of a hull (colored water in long clear plastic tubing). Each of these techniques gave a different line! So I kind of battened/level lined the final reference line as an average of all the others.

After establishing a level cabin interior perimeter line, longitudinal cleats are installed to notch in bunk bulkheads and provide base for bunk tops. (Author)

Forward of the fwdmost bulkhead under the fwd deck is another bulkhead bonded to bottom, sides and deck. This will be a watertight floatation/crash area which is further protected by a 2" x 4" (full quarter) Port Orford stem embedded in a generous layer of mush. Just fwd of that wider bulkhead will be another floatation area with an inspection plate. I store extra butane fuel and water bottles in here as it is both water tight and accessible.

All the bunk bulkheads are installed, as is the fwdmost top to the fwd floatation area. (Author)

The port bunk is shorter to allow the porta potti to fit just aft of the bunk. Prior to deciding where to put the bulkheads (and therefore the bunk tops), my wife and laid down in the bare hull and we drew our supine body outlines on the floor to assure adequate bunk space for sleeping. Actually this accommodates two 6' adults. The longitudinal strips on the floor are 1" x 1" oak epoxied in. I did it this way to allow sliding galley and other stowage boxes under the bunks (as opposed to installing longitudinal bulkheads). When the bunk tops are boat nailed and epoxied in place, it completes the structural integrity of a monocoque effect with the hull (sides and bottom). There are no frames in this type of construction and no joints to come apart and rot. It's easy to keep clean. The only downside to this method is dealing with the epoxy (sticks to everything in the shop) and all the fairing/sanding.

View of the bunk bulkheads looking aft. Note the water barrier between the cockpit (where the porta potti is temporarily resting) and cabin area spanning the space between the port and starboard sides of the aft cabin bulkhead. It is 8" high. (Author)
Bunk tops installed. All the cabin interior work is done before the actual cabin is installed. Note potti space on aft end of port bunk. (Author)
Another view of bunks, floatation and stowage areas. (Author)

Either bunk is long enough for one person to sleep at either end since one can have their head clear forward under the forward deck, or two with their feet toward the bow. Berth tops are ~ 22" wide. Note the curved in area on the aft end of the std bunk. The bunk is wider than the cabin door will be, so this is needed to allow ease of entry. The 12v deep cycle battery will be placed under the aft end of the stb bunk with a hatch above it for service and connector access. Aft cabin bulkhead, cabin sides and top were temporarily set in place to be sure there was adequate real time space for sitting head room, potti access, stowage access and interior cabin movement allowances. I never depend on measurements alone. I always put a human body or other object of use in the space I am building to be sure it all will fit and be usable and space efficient.

Aft cabin bulkhead, cabin sides and top were temporarily set in place (Author)

Next is figuring out the dimensions of the cockpit hatches. The cockpit is ~ 6' long from the aft cabin bulkhead to the motorboard. The cockpit seats will be ~ 11" high, with plenty of room for good sized hatches.

Cockpit seat longitudinal bulkheads are temporarily fitted and leveled P & S. (Author)

Note cooler is placed where I intend to use it to be sure there is adequate room for it before taping and gluing in the bulkheads. A level perimeter reference line around the outside of the cockpit is first established using levels and the waterline boot trick mentioned above. Splines are sort of fitted to an average of all the resulting marks and the level line is drawn in. Cleats are then fastened around the perimeter to assure P & S level reference for the tops of the seats. The main parts including all the main bulkheads are cut from dimensions given in the plans. All the bulkhead parts are from 1/2" MDO, as are the berth and seat tops.

Looking aft, the cockpit longitudinal bulkheads have been filleted and taped in. (Author)

The fuel tank is temporarily put in place to assure plenty of room for stowage and access. Since this hull only requires a 6hp engine, I use 3 gallon tanks which are small and easy to joggle around. I have four of them (usually only carry two), one in each hatch P & S. Cutouts in the bulkheads will be made later to access the tanks.

Next time I will show how the cabin is put together, along with some of the hatch details and finishing techniques.

*****

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